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Changing the face of healthcare networks

Geoff Thomas, vice president of Enterprise Sales, Asia Pacific, Juniper Networks | May 19, 2014
Healthcare organisations are experiencing a rapid change in the nature of care provisioning with the global push towards health IT.

Transitioning to this solution requires a network approach that Juniper Networks calls "wired-less". This means that wireless should be the primary access method with the result of fewer wires in the wireline network to manage.

Make no mistake, however; wired networks will continue to play a vital role in health IT, handling transfer of large radiology image files and ensuring backup connectivity between hospitals and data centres. The nature of healthcare network access is, however, changing from wired to wireless Ethernet.

While this is driven in a large part by the influx of highly capable tablets and smartphones, medical devices are also becoming far more connected. For example, Wi-Fi connectivity enables a blood pressure test to automatically transfer readings to a patient's chart while doctors can view lab results on their tablet.

Making the transition

For a successful transition to this wired-less environment, there are three requirements that must be met: a resilient and ubiquitous wireless infrastructure, comprehensive security for the care provider irrespective of the device and the achievement of a simpler overall network infrastructure.

Implementing security that is based on actual users is key, irrespective of the devices hospitals and clinics are using to access the network. Offering a secure, device-agnostic access capability allows all new devices to use the network safely. By offering one policy per user instead of per port, healthcare IT departments can scale the demand in a simple fashion. Having the security clients available as free downloadable applications for all the popular devices allows the doctors and clinicians to self-provision their devices and change them at will.

The network should also be application-agnostic, which means being ready for all current and future applications with a standards-based infrastructure that supports all manner of voice, video and data irrespective of endpoint or application vendor. In order to do so healthcare organisations must be able to offer a wired experience to wireless-LAN end-users.

Since we're only going to see more medical and mobile devices - together with their applications - relying on this network, the expectations and need for the wireless network to perform in order to deliver a solid experience continues to rise.

To ensure non-stop mobility services and seamless roaming on the wireless LAN, the assumption has to be made that access point support is one of the primary roles of Ethernet access switches. These should therefore now be capable of delivering power-over-Ethernet so hooking up new access points becomes a matter of plugging in the Ethernet cable.

It is also very important to adopt a network architecture which enables the number of switching tiers and managed devices to be reduced. This simplification of the aggregation layer allows your network to be able to scale for tomorrow's applications.


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